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Reading Trout Water – Fish the Transitions

Posted on August 30 2016

Reading trout water.
There’s got to be one in there somewhere.. Photo: Jim Palmersheim.

If you haven’t noticed, we love fly fishing for trout, and while our trout might behave differently in western Alaska than trout found in more ‘classic’ trout streams, the fact remains; They’re still trout! Thus, they’re often found in the same types of water.

Successfully reading trout water is by far one of the most studied topics in fly fishing. Heck, there are entire books written on the topic alone! In fact, we’d go out on a limb to say there’s so much information out there, it can be daunting for anglers, especially for those just starting out, to learn the characteristics of good ‘trouty’ looking water.

Therefore, when talking trout lies, we like to keep it simple.. If you’re looking for trout, fish the transitions! We could write post after post about prime lies and water types, but concentrating the majority of your fishing time on transitions is a simple way to keep your fly in the game.

What do we mean exactly by ‘transitions?’ We’ll tell you. When targeting trout, make sure to concentrate your efforts where:

  • Fast water meets slow water. Seems, rips, pools, eddys, or any other types of water where faster water meets slower water is generally worth fishing. Trout are able to comfortably hold in slower water while faster water often provides food as well as a surface break from predators above making for some of the best lies for trout possible.
  • Shallow water meets deep water. Shelfs, drop offs, plunge pools and the like often provide more ‘structure’ to trout than many anglers give them credit. If shallow water quickly transitions to the deep, without a doubt, fish it.
  • Where the current speed is broken by structure. It’s no secret, but any obstruction that breaks the current has the potential for a good holding lie. Snags, root wads, logs, boulders, and so on all have potential for trout to hold comfortably while waiting for their next meal to drift by.
  • Where dark water meets light water. Never underestimate a color change. On a sunny day, a quick transition from shallow to deep water can often be seen as a distinct color change of brown water to green water. Color changes can offer a hint into fishy water, most often indicating drastic depth changes or submerged structure. Where bright sunlit water meets darker shadowed water can also possesses potential as well. Trout don’t love to stare directly into the sun, and will generally feel safer in shadowed water. So, if you’ve got a dark shadow casted over any of the water mentioned above, definitely fish it to.

Confused on where to put your next cast? Focus on the transitions and we think you’l be pleasantly surprised.

More on Trout Fishing

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